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Efforts are being made to bring life back to Downtown Monroe

Posted: Updated: Nov 30, 2012 06:53 PM

MONROE, La. (KNOE 8 News) - Downtown Monroe has taken on new life over the past year and its no accident, several people are working behind the scenes to make it happen.

For years downtown Monroe seemed to stand still. Business moved outward and buildings were boarded up. But lately, the area seems to have caught a second wind. "We wanted to show people that there were things going on and revitalization there," said Myra Gatling-Akers, Director of Downtown Development, she along with a team of people have worked to bring the heart of the city back to life.

Gatling-Akers says for a while, only people needing to go to a government office or the hospital found themselves downtown. As a result, the group created an atmosphere to encourage people to hang out, with events like gallery crawls, the downtown river jam, and most recently the RiverMarket. "You have to get people downtown first so that business will want to locate," said Gatling-Akers and added that the RiverMarket has acted as a catalyst for progress, bringing hundreds to the area each weekend. "I just think that helped speed up the momentum of what was already happening".

Now private developers and businesses buying up and renovating downtown property. While much progress has been made, Gatling-Akers says there is more work to be done and the people of Monroe may see some changes to downtown within the next year. "I expect to see quite a few new things," she said.

In the works, several old buildings have been bought up, and a developer is looking into the possibility of opening a boutique hotel, a new restaurant is coming, and the city is working on building floating docks, giving access to downtown from the river.

This weekend, a record breaking 110 vendors are signed up for the RiverMarket. The hours for the market will be extended until seven Saturday evening.

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